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Old 12-28-2007, 03:55 PM
garbagecowboy garbagecowboy is offline
 
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Default The Major League Baseball Players Association: a union we all should loathe

The hypocrisy of Curt Schilling and of all the player's union head honchos (Tom Glavine, glad he's not a Met anymore) in resisting testing and now pointing fingers is unbelievable.

I've heard lots of people make excuses for the players: it was all the owners, the league ("Chicks dig the long ball."), the fans who wanted it, the players simply danced to their or our tune.

I call bullshit, for one.

First of all, and perhaps this is a more philosophical point, baseball is a game of numbers, which has been forever tainted by the players who juiced. In particular it is a game of counting statistics. Perhaps this is a general flaw in the baseball fan for putting such a mystical quality in these numbers, but for me the grandeur of the game had a lot to do with its history, and the way that players across eras can be compared via their counting statistics in relationship to certain well-established milestones. Since my grandfather, the first generation of my family to be born in America, grew up watching the Giants and Yankees in the 1930s, the game had been played more or less the same, with players obtaining more or less the same amounts of hits, home-runs, strikeouts, RBIs, etc, and following a similar career trajectory in how many of those stats could be obtained as the player aged. Those golden proportions of 90 feet between bases and 60 feet 6 inches from the rubber to the plate meant that counting statistics like winning 300 games, getting 3000 hits, or obviously, hitting 714 home runs meant something. What Hank Aaron accomplished was extraordinary: if you look at his career stats he never hit more than 50 home runs in a season and beat the immortal Babe Ruth by being a great, consistent hitter.

Perhaps stimulants give an advantage (although I question to what extent stimulants had been in baseball before, say the 1970s) but there is unquestionably a categorical difference between the use of stimulants to concentrate and the use of anabolic and androgenic steroids to build muscle mass at levels the human body cannot usually obtain. Please take a look at these men and what steroids have done to their bodies and tell me that "there have always been drugs in baseball." Yes, being stronger cannot turn a guy who strikes out all the time into a great hitter, but it can turn a good hitter into the best home-run hitter of all time. Don't believe me? I've got the numbers to prove it.

From a statistical standpoint actually, no, there have not always been drugs in baseball. In addition to our blessed counting statistics, a modern generation of baseball fans have embraced the Bill James gospel which basically amounts to using appropriate rate statistics for evaluating player performance. And in fact, no one has ever done what Barry Bonds did, posting such an unbelievable increase in power after say the age of 25 when he was over 35 years old. His increase in OPS+ from the time when he was 36-40 is literally without precedent in baseball history, and clearly caused by steroids.

The irony is that Bonds was a very talented player, who merely supplemented great plate discipline and a great hitting talent with anabolically stimulated power. The same can be said of Roger Clemens with regard to pitching. Yes, he would not have over 300 wins, likely, and he would not still be throwing the ball 90+ MPH at 44 years of age, but Clemens would have been in the Hall of Fame without using steroids. Bonds would have also been a hall-of-famer (although nowhere near as famous; think maybe Eddie Murray like career stats). However, these guys came in and literally re-wrote what kind of stats it was possible for an aging ball-player to do in the "waning" years of his career.

But not in a good way. Even HGH, which Andy Pettite copped to using, can badly screw up your joints. The other steroids which guys like Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, Giambi, etc. were all clearly using involve serious long-term risks, such as destroying your joints, liver, shrinking your testicles, growing breasts, messing with your emotions and screwing up your natural production of hormones permanently. This is not shit to fuck around with. Certainly not something that little leaguers who want to make it to the big leagues think they will need to take to be even possibly able to compete with the big guys. The problem here is not only with the fact that my ideal of what a baseball player should be able to do is shattered, it's that there are thousands of high school ballplayers who want to make it to the minor leagues, and thousands of minor leagues who want to make it to the big leagues, who will be pushed to screw up their bodies with this crap. And if you don't think it's out there for anybody, that you need to know some shady clubhouse trainer to get the stuff or learn how to "stack" and "cycle," well, it's out there for anybody to see. Take a look at some of their message boards. "Regular" people are doing it.

And ultimately I think the buck stops with the players. It was McGwire and Sosa who took what Jose Canseco was taking from the bodybuilders and used it to shatter Maris and Ruth's record. It was Bonds who saw the attention McGwire and Sosa got and rushed out to figure out how to do it himself. Each of these players made a decision to enhance their performance with these very dangerous chemicals in a very public fashion. A fashion that, ironically, leaves its fingerprint all over their stat-sheet. Hint: if a guy starts hitting more home runs when he's 40 than he did when he was 30, he's juicing. The players' response has been pathetic; McGwire's simpering, miserable display in front of Congress being only the most public of two equally pathetic strategies: cry and beg for forgiveness, or continue denying as all plausibility of your denial evaporates.

Not to say that there isn't plenty of blame to go around, and that the league must take decisive action. Maybe you get 2 strikes; 1 bad test = 50 game suspension. Your second failed test and you are out of professional baseball for life. The players union, the owners and Selig all need to come to this realization: a league where some of the players are juicing, some are jealous, and everybody is watching is no longer tolerable.

It is true that there is not as yet a reliable urine test for HGH and some other substances; this is a soluble scientific and technical problem, however. Testing must keep pace with the cheaters. The union should offer them no protection.

And finally, Bonds and Clemens and McGwire and Sosa should never be allowed into the Hall of Fame. In my mind, what they did is much worse than what Pete Rose did, because of how many young people will have been induced put this crap in their bodies because of them, how much worse they have tainted the reputations of all the athletes of their era, and what their conduct says about them as sportsmen. For all these reasons they deserve to be remembered as pariahs, not as demi-gods.

Last edited by garbagecowboy; 12-28-2007 at 04:02 PM..
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